Has anyone tried using supplement to improve their memory, and academic performance?

  1. After reading an article at sciencedaily.com about the results of acetyl-l-carnitine in combination with alpha lipoic acid in aging rats I decided to conduct a personal experiment. I'm in my mid thirties and while my memory is not bad it could always be better. I had my wife give me a randomly generated list of words and see how many I could recall after ten minutes. We repeated this once a day for a week and my mean score was twenty two out of thirty words before beginning supplementation. I repeated the "experiment" after sixty days of supplementation and was able to recall and average of twenty seven randomly chosen words (between four and seven letters long) out of thirty. My dosage was 150 mg alpha lipoic acid combined with 100mg acetyl-l-carnitine BID. Of course this is non-scientific, but my wife was impressed enough by my results that she is now going to try the supplement. Has anyone else here attempted anything similiar to this with these or other supplements (or diet/sleep/exercise modifications). It would also be fascinating to repeat this protocal with equivalently challenging, randomly generated, standardized intelligence tests to see if there was a difference. Does anyone know where such tests (in sufficient quantity to make this approach possible) could be obtained?
    Last edit by Roland on Mar 10, '04
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  2. 15 Comments

  3. by   emybaby2
    Am afraid that taking all these chemical drugs might have a side effect. Do you think it improves memory? My fellow nurse says that i shouldn't attempt it. But if you say it is good, i think no problem.
    Emybabybaby :hatparty:
  4. by   Impartial_pressure
    A friend of mine tried some yohimbe. More known for its amorus type effects. no comment on his memory.
    Quote from emybabybaby
    Am afraid that taking all these chemical drugs might have a side effect. Do you think it improves memory? My fellow nurse says that i shouldn't attempt it. But if you say it is good, i think no problem.
    Emybabybaby :hatparty:
  5. by   Roland
    Both agents are found naturally in foods and are faily innocuous. In addition, I read the relevent articles in my PDR for CAM medicine to be sure. I have read articles that suggest Yohimbe can be dangerous for certain individuals with occult CHD or hypertension. Obviously, anyone who believes that they may have serious, underlying medical disorders should consult with a physician before attempting diet, supplement, or lifestyle modifications. My question was more generally orientated towards the realm of attempts to improve cognition and memory. I was just wondering if others out there had attempted various approaches to this issue.
    Last edit by Roland on Mar 9, '04
  6. by   SRNAVic
    Roland,

    Check out that old mega-memory program put out by nightingale-conant. It's comprised of a ton of exercises in order to help you think in pictures to help you remember lists, names, really just about anything better. It has REALLY helped me with recall regarding doses, mechanisms of action, doctors names, patients names, my wife's shopping lists, just about anything.

    Vic
  7. by   Roland
    It's funny that you mention mega-memory. My dad purchased those tapes for me about fifteen years ago and I worked through the first couple of tapes (I think they helped, but was to busy working twelve hour days in the Navy to finish them). I ended up "loaning" them to a friend who to this day SWEARS that they impared his previous, vitually photographic memory! I may get on Ebay and see if I can find a low cost copy of this program (I think it was originally several hundred dollars).
    Last edit by Roland on Mar 10, '04
  8. by   Nitecap
    For memory the way to go is ginkgo biloba and panax gensing. I find it highly effective not to mention it gives me energy and it's cheap.
  9. by   DustinRN
    I tried the ginkgo biloba, but it gave me terrible headaches. That's a good idea to start the study on yourself by looking over words and then compiling how many you can remember after several weeks of use. I think I will try this with ginkgo again. Maybe this time I won't have the same SE's
  10. by   Roland
    I considered trying ginko, but I remembered a segment I had heard on Dr. Dean Edell's radio show about a year ago where he talked about reports of cerebrial vascular accidents possibly induced by ginko. This makes a certain degree of sense considering that the primary mechanism that ginko biloba is believed to work by is increasing blood flow. Of course a few adverse events do not mean that a product is not worthwhile or safe (consider that aspirin causes many deaths and yet mounting evidence indicates that it can be a powerful protector against MI, and possibly even certain types of cancer). However, the mechanism of behind alpha-lipoic acid, and acetyl-l-carnitine seems to have less potential side effects. It is believed that these agents work in part by reducing/reversing oxidation damage AND most interestingly improving mitochondrial output which tends to decline with age. I will try to post the article that initially got me so excited about these agents below:

    Dietary Supplements Make Old Rats Youthful, May Help Rejuvenate Aging Humans, According To UC Berkeley Study
    Berkeley - Two dietary supplements straight off the health food store shelf put the spark back into aging rats, and might do the same for aging baby boomers, according to a study at the University of California, Berkeley, and Children's Hospital Oakland Research Institute.
    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    A team of researchers led by Bruce N. Ames, professor of molecular and cell biology at UC Berkeley, fed older rats two chemicals normally found in the body's cells and available as dietary supplements: acetyl-L-carnitine and an antioxidant, alpha-lipoic acid.

    In three articles in the February 19 issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Ames and his colleagues report the surprising results. Not only did the older rats do better on memory tests, they had more pep, and the energy-producing organelles in their cells worked better.

    "With the two supplements together, these old rats got up and did the Macarena," said Ames, also a researcher at Children's Hospital Oakland Research Institute (CHORI). "The brain looks better, they are full of energy - everything we looked at looks more like a young animal."

    "The animals seem to have much more vigor and are much more active than animals not on this diet, signaling massive improvement to these animals' health and well-being," said former UC Berkeley post-doctoral fellow Tory M. Hagen, now an assistant professor at the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University, Corvallis. "And we also see a reversal in loss of memory. That is a dual-track improvement that is significant and unique. This is really starting to explode and move out of the realm of basic research into people."

    Based on the group's earlier studies, the University of California patented use of the combination of the two supplements to rejuvenate cells. Ames, through the Bruce and Giovanna Ames Foundation, and Hagen founded a company in 1999 called Juvenon to license the patent from the university. Juvenon currently is engaged in human clinical trials of the combination.

    One of the three PNAS articles probes the reasons behind this rejuvenation, concluding that the two chemicals "tune up" the energy-producing organelles that power all cells, the mitochondria. Both chemicals are normally used in mitochondria.

    Ames calls mitochondria the "weak link in aging." Evidence has been piling up, he said, that deterioration of mitochondria is an important cause of aging. A significant cause of this deterioration, he believes, is the accumulation of destructive free radicals - byproducts of normal metabolism - that disable enzymes and other chemicals.

    The combination therapy targets mitochondria to get rid of destructive radicals and to boost the activity of a damaged enzyme, carnitine acetyltransferase, that plays a key role in burning fuel in mitochondria. The researchers hoped that the anti-oxidant alpha-lipoic acid would do the former, and that flooding the cell with acetyl-L-carnitine, one of two proteins that the enzyme acts on, would achieve the latter.

    Experiments showed that this regimen worked. Associate researcher Jiankang Liu of CHORI, UC Berkeley postdoctoral fellow David W. Killilea and Ames demonstrated that the enzyme carnitine acetyltransferase is less active in old rats than in young rats, and that it binds less tightly to acetyl-L-carnitine in older rats.

    Supplementation with acetyl-L-carnitine or a combination of acetyl-L-carnitine and alpha-lipoic acid restored the enzyme's activity nearly to that found in young rats and substantially restored binding to acetyl-L-carnitine.

    "The acetyl-L-carnitine is protecting the protein and the higher levels are enabling the protein to work, while alpha-lipoic acid knocks down oxygen radicals," Ames said. "Each chemical solves a different problem - the two together are better than either one alone."

    Ames and Hagen have long had an interest in mitochondria as they relate to aging, and they were intrigued by a 1999 Italian study that showed acetyl-L-carnitine, when fed to old rats, improved mitochondrial activity.

    The two thought this might be a way to reverse the effects of aging on mitochondria, and in various trials found it to work to some degree. Free radicals were still damaging the cell, however, so they decided to pair it with one of the few antioxidants that gets into mitochondria, alpha-lipoic acid. Lipoic acid is produced by mitochondria and boosts levels of other antioxidants.

    In the second of the PNAS studies, Hagen, Ames and colleagues compared 2- to 4-month-old rats to 24- to 28-month-old rats, all fed acetyl-L-carnitine in their water and alpha-lipoic acid in their chow.

    After as much as a month on the supplements, the old and lethargic rats became more peppy, Ames said.

    "We significantly reversed the decline in overall activity typical of aged rats to what you see in a middle-aged to young adult rat 7 to 10 months of age," Hagen said. "This is equivalent to making a 75- to 80-year-old person act middle-aged. We've only shown short-term effects, but the results give us the rationale for looking at these things long term."

    They found also that the combination of lipoic acid and acetyl-carnitine improved mitochondrial activity and thus cellular metabolism, and increased levels of various chemicals known to decline with age, including ascorbic acid, an antioxidant.

    In a third study, Liu, Hagen, Ames and colleagues fed old rats a similar diet of the two supplements and looked at memory function as measured by the Morris water maze test and a peak procedure for assessing temporal or time-based memory developed by Seth Roberts, professor of psychology at UC Berkeley. They found that supplementation improved both spatial and temporal memory, and reduced the amount of oxidative damage to RNA in the brain's hippocampus, an area important in memory. In electron microscope pictures of cells from the hippocampus, mitochondria showed less structural decay in old rats that had a supplemented diet.

    "We did two different tests for cognitive activity in rats, and in both it made a big difference to feed them this mixture," Ames said. "Memory degenerates with age, and this makes them better."

    The analysis of nucleic acid damage in the brain was performed with post-doctoral researcher Elizabeth Head and Carl W. Cotman, professor of neurobiology and behavior, at the Institute for Brain Aging and Dementia at UC Irvine. UC Berkeley psychology graduate student Afshin M. Gharib worked with Liu to conduct the peak performance tests.

    "In aging, you're oxidizing the proteins in mitochondria and they lose activity," Ames explained. "If some of that lost activity is due to binding for substrate or coenzyme - like binding of acetyl-L-carnitine by carnitine acetyltransferase - and you can raise the level of those, then you can reverse some of the loss.

    "We showed, in fact, that that is what's happening with acetyl-L-carnitine. Aldehydes from lipid oxidation are glomming onto that protein, and that is what appears to cause the reduction in binding activity. But if you raise the level of acetyl-L-carnitine, now it works."

    Hagen added, "With aging, we see so many different things that are occurring to mitochondria that then lead to consequences in the cell. If you tune up mitochondria you may have a means of at least delaying the onset of a number of age-related problems that we encounter, or we can in some ways, hopefully, reverse what has already taken place."

    The work was supported by grants from the Ellison Foundation, the National Institute on Aging of the National Institutes of Health, the Wheeler Fund of the Dean of Biology at UC Berkeley, the Bruce and Giovanna Ames Foundation and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences Center at UC Berkeley.
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    This story has been adapted from a news release issued by University Of California - Berkeley.





  11. by   canoehead
    I tried gingko and had spontaneous bleeding from everywhere after just one pill. Waited a week and tried it again with the same result, so I decided to stay stupid.
  12. by   kmchugh
    Roland

    This is a personal bugaboo of mine. Look, there are literally thousands of "supplements" out there, that make every claim under the sun. They claim benefits from improved memory, to increased libido, to curing cancer, aids, and diabetes. However, there has only been one scientifically proven benefit, and oddly enough, this benefit crosses the spectrum of supplements available. All are proven, if sold properly, to improve the financial status of those making and selling the supplements. I suggest you adopt my mantra: "Show me the results of a controlled, double blind study, then we can talk. Until then, I'll keep my money, thank you." In other words, if it works so well, why hasn't it been studied?

    Let me recommend a site that you may find interesting:

    http://www.quackwatch.org/

    They cover a range of "alternative medicine." If you spend some time there, you will find a shocking number of snake oil salesmen who are out literally to fleece the most vulnerable population in the US, the terminally ill. Just for fun, at the quackwatch site, check out the data on Hulda Clark. It will turn your stomach.

    I know that you are getting ready to start nursing school (or have you already started? Can't keep it straight.) As you progress, you are going to run into a number of alternative treatment modalities, and some of them are going to be very slick. Some purveyors of alt med are so slick, they manage to get a lot of support from otherwise intelligent people. Look no further than the NANDA, which has adopted as a nursing diagnosis "Human Energy Field Disturbance," for which the only known treatment is "Therapeutic Touch," which oddly enough, is neither therapeutic, nor does it involve touch. (And anyone who wants to debate TT with me, step right up.) Both the HEF disturbance, and its treatment, TT, were "discovered" by a PhD prepared nurse named Delores Krieger. This nonsense has been sold to nursing, lock, stock and barrel.

    As a CRNA, my practice is science based. Supplements are non-scientific. In fact, when sold as supplements, these items have no FDA controls for strength, dosage, or efficacy. There is no requirement to really prove they do what the salesmen say they do. There is no requirement that two pills from the same bottle contain the same ingredients at the same strengths. Keep your money in you wallet.

    Kevin McHugh
  13. by   MICU RN
    I agree with Kevin's post. In addition, I can remember last semster while taking an advanced general pharm class, our prof. mentioned that a couple of semesters ago many of the medical students were taking an herbal supp. to improve memory. The feedback from them was that it did not seem to work, I know this is rather antidotal, however, he also mentioned that there was no scientific trial studies to back up the claims. Kevin, brought up some good points, and although I am not a big proponent of gov. regulation, i do feel that these supp.s need to be much better regulated, so that they do not harm the general public.
  14. by   Roland
    I agree that double blind studies should be the standard for FDA approval of claims, and certainly for prescription status (this is actually a lower threshold than the clinical trial process they often demand which involves many such trials in a variety of settings). However, the price of such certainty (and no doubt increased safety) is that many promising and effective, natural agents will never see the marketplace due to financial, patent, and other considerations. Alpha Lipoic acid for instance is approved in Germany for the treatment of diabetic and alcoholic related neuropathies. I have listed a few of the scientific papers published upon it's merits below. Of course these do not constitute, the type of large scale, double blind experiments required for FDA approval. In the case of alpha-lipoic acid why would anyone spend the millions required to fund such trials when the agent cannot be patented (save perhaps for the NIH which might consider funding such research were it not for a limited budget under the auspices of it's Institute for Complementary and Alternative medicine).

    To the extent that I use supplements at all, I try to stick with those which have significant, scientific support from reasonably non bias scources. However, I am under no illusions that such support is equivalent to the FDA clinical trial process. I have visited quackwatch on several occasions and often agree with their perspective (I once took one of their articles to my advanced physiology professor when he mentioned colloidal minerals). There are many examples of current "mainline" approaches (such as taking an aspirin after an MI) that were once consdered CAM despite significant (but not sufficient for the FDA) clinical evidence for their efficacy. There are even current dietary approaches such as caloric restriction with adequate nutrition that have over fifty years of extensive scientific support in numerous animal models (and less in humans because we live so much longer), but are still not advocated in the mainline scientific/medical community. You are correct however in pointing out that attempting to utilize such approaches entails a higher level of risk that they may be harmful or just not effective. It really comes down to caveat emptor.

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    Last edit by Roland on Mar 11, '04

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